Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Doughnuts

Robert McCloskey is my current favorite kids' author. I find both his stories and illustrations endearing, sweet, and fun. In Blueberries for Sal, I love the contrast between Sal and her mother and between the Mother bear and her cub. I admire the human qualities the Mother duck in Make Way for Ducklings possesses, and I love to see her maternal instincts shine through as she cares for her new charges. The growing up experiences depicted in One Morning in Maine are delightful and poignant. And Lentil is just plain fun and presents all sorts of topics for teaching such as persevering and trying your best...and even a science project on lemons! But my all-time favorite McCloskey book has got to be Homer Price. Honestly, I didn't even know Homer Price was a McCloskey masterpiece until my mom handed me my childhood copy which she had brought back for me from Africa.

One of my favorite childhood memories is storytime with my mom. She had the Uncle Remus accent down and different voices for Winnie-the-Pooh stories. Before sitting down with Homer Price, my mom would always make a batch of her granola. Then I would munch on a bowl of the dry granola while we went adventuring with Homer. My favorite adventure by far was "The Doughnuts."

The kids and I have been sharing in Homer Price's adventures in Centerburg. Today was a sick day for us as both girls were a little under the weather, so we read "The Doughnuts." It sure was fun to read those words I've remembered all these years:

"...the rings of batter kept right on dropping into the hot fat, and an automatic gadget kept right on turning them over, and another automatic gadget kept right on giving them a little push, and the doughnuts kept right on rolliing down the little chute, just as regular as a clock can tick."

Although I should have used better judgment considering I have a sick baby, after our reading I decided we all ought to make doughnuts. Back in my Homer Price days there was a woman who lived on our mission compound whom I called "Aunt Jean." Aunt Jean made the most delicious doughnuts in the world, and sometimes I went down to her house to watch her. Well, I left the mission compound with a copy of her recipe, and while I've kept the recipe safe all these years, I've never tried it.

The kids were able to help out a bit during the mixing of the dough, and after the first rising, helped roll the dough out. Even the sick little princess helped, although she spent most of the time just watching from her chair, her forlorn little face in her blankie. I don't own a doughnut cutter, so we made due with a glass and a medicine cup for the hole.

Obviously, I did all of the frying, though not without worrying about someone getting hurt as I had a sick little baby clinging to my leg the whole time (like I said, I could have thought this through a little better and saved this project for a better day!).

But they were all fried and glazed...and of course tested. Since my hurried frying led to some very misshapen doughnuts, I don't think that, based on looks, The Pierce Doughnut Shop will be opening anytime soon. As far as taste goes, however, Dunkin Donuts--look out!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Mental Health Day

Have you ever had one of those days where, upon greeting the new morning, you just know you need to make the decision to abandon all that's on the calendar for the day and replace it with some quality down time? Well, today was that day for me, only the decision was made before the sun came up. I had a good visit with Dr. Quack yesterday, so I was actually sleeping really well...until 1:30 when the Princess awakened me. She has this idea in her pretty little head that she must sleep with her Dollhouse twin "babies", the "mommy", and the "daddy" and very often much of the furniture from the dollhouse. She obviously woke up and couldn't find one or both of her babies beside her (they're only about an inch tall, go figure!). She desperately wanted me to come to her aid, so I went up and helped my crazy little baby girl find her babies and settle back down. Then I tried to settle back down--something very difficult for me to do. So I began to plan tomorrow. The thought of a mental health day suddenly popped into my head when I pondered Alex who is just getting over a cold and could use a day off. So I turned my alarm clock off, finally drifted back to sleep, and didn't get out of bed until 7:30!

Alex didn't get up until almost 9:00 and seems to have slept the rest of her cold away (like her Daddy does). The Princess, however, woke up unusually and exceptionally grumpy, so I was very thankful for my decision to play hooky today. I've tried to plan some fun but lazy things to do today--some reading, games, and a movie. The rest will do us good as tonight is the first night for AWANA. We spent a good portion of yesterday on a wild goose chase trying to track down the books I need to use to teach AWANA tonight; finally got my hands on them at 7:30 last night. While I could blame someone else for not giving me the right materials in the first place, I can also blame myself for not looking at the materials until yesterday and then discovering something was amiss. So we drove to church and then got detoured to someone's house who wasn't home yet. Then to Dr. Quack's office. Then back home to wait until the lady with the books got home, then back way across town to finally pick them up. After all that work to get the books, everyone better be well tonight so I can make it to AWANA to teach this lesson!!

In the interim between now and AWANA, we'll squeeze in some playtime with a new board game I got (The Manners Game--wonder if they'll see through me on this one?) and also watch a movie. We're featuring Pippi Longstocking in the theater this afernoon, one of my favorite childhood characters. Alex is doing a book report on Pippi, so she gets tickled to see some of the antics from the book played out on the big screen.

Before we know it, our day of downtime will be over and a new day will dawn. I suppose it will be up for debate whether or not our mental health day has done me any good. I am looking forward to tomorrow, however, because we will be home all day--no appointments with Dr. Quack, no errands to run for the church, no planned outings, and with a full fridge and a planned menu--no trips to the grocery store. Thankfully, tomorrow it will be back to homeschooling instead of carschooling.

How a princess spends a mental health day.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Mother Nature and Pool Parties

"So, you're having a pool party, eh?" Mother Nature asks with a mischievous laugh and a twinkle in her eye. Weather-wise yesterday began beautifully. And I had a real sunny spot at church. I have mentioned that still, even 11 years away from my teaching days, I run into students. While parents don't have favorites, I'm here to tell you that teachers do. Chris was one of my favorites. Well, there he was at my church yesterday! All grown up, married, and working in youth ministry with our Youth Pastor! It was fun to see him.

The sun continued to shine yesterday right up until about an hour and a half before our small group was to arrive for a pool party. I looked at the weather radar after the storm began and wouldn't you know that not a speck of green or red covered the whole state except for one long band right over us!! Of course! It rained for a couple of hours and stayed gloomy the remainder of the day. When the guests arrived, the kids naturally cared little about the weather and enjoyed the pool in spite of it. We ended up having a great evening of food, fun, and fellowship. (Take that, Mother Nature!)

Today is supposed to bring another pool party, this one with my homeschool group. However, it's gloomy once more. Add that to the fact that I am not sleeping because of my back, and I think we're going to opt to spend an hour at my new Dr. Quack's office rather than at the pool. I'm guessing as soon as I make that call to cancel our RSVP at the pool party, Mother Nature will gently blow the clouds away. Just to tease me of course.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Just Our Goings-ON

We are smack dab in the middle of a very busy weekend. I'm in between cake fillings (making them, that is), and my hard-working husband is out cleaning up the backyard--"vacuuming" the patio to get rid of all of these mid-summer leaves that have fallen from thirsty trees; weeding the sandbox in which, if we had had the commonsensical forethought to line it with that black anti-weed liner stuff, we wouldn't be cultivating all kinds of vegetation in the kids' play area.

Mark has earned his keep the last couple of days. Today our church held their annual 5K run. It takes a lot of volunteers to make it run smoothly, however. Mark worked all day yesterday helping set up and then was there by 5:30 this morning. Countless others sacrificed even more hours to make it work, and I think everyone had a good time. I arrived with the kids around 7:30 (after suffering the wrath of the Princess who did NOT want to be dragged out of bed!). Following the grown-up race was a "Fun Run" for the kids: one lap around the parking lot. The young racers each got a t-shirt and a number. Missing was one shy young racer named Jacob. After the race, the kids enjoyed inflatables and a jumpy trampoline thing.

Since we returned home, Mark and I have been working to get things ready for tomorrow evening when we will host our Small Group for a social. Mark has already made up multiple pans of lasagna (I think each pan is a different kind--is he amazing or what?!), and I'm working on dessert. We'll be just 4 families but 16 kids. Yes, we're a fertile bunch!

In the midst of our preparations for tomorrow, we will sneak out for dinner to meet some friends whom we have not seen in some time. It's always fun to catch up with old friends, and this family is adding a new member in October, so that makes it extra special.

And then of course Monday it's back to school! You may think since I haven't posted any academia lately that my motivation and steam has petered out; however, we have kept things going despite some interruptions with chiropractors and such! Friday actually could have been a more productive day if I hadn't tarried with an art project. I brought out the watercolor paints, and it has been years since I have "played" with watercolors. The kids were done with their project in 5 or 10 minutes, but an hour later there I was still painting. Consequently, some of academia was missed on Friday! Obviously, my fault!

The kids did get a science project finished, however. We are studying the planets, and they made a notebook page that has the planets hanging in order from the page. The boys have taped theirs to their bunk bed, one from the ceiling and one from the bottom of the top bunk. Do you remember using mneumonics in school to remember things? I can't remember the one we learned for the planets (which would now be minus a p for Pluto and the U and the N would need to be transposed, so it probably wouldn't make sense anyway), so we made up a new one: My Very Energetic Mom Jumped Ship Under Neptune. Am I allowed to keep the word Neptune in there since Neptune is the actual answer? The other N I came up with was Nicaragua, and I thought Neptune was a bit easier to remember!

I would say that is our week in a nutshell, but since I have rambled on and on, I really didn't give a short version at all. But all the same, that is the news from our side of the world!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Instant Gratification

I did it. Today I did something I vowed I would never do again after my visit with Dr. Quack 11 years ago. But I simply couldn't live with this pain in my neck anymore (and, no, I'm not referring to my children or my husband!). And, as skeptical as I was (and still am to some degree), I really do feel better. I have gone this entire day without Tylenol or Advil, and I woke up this morning feeling surprisingly refreshed after my chiropractic adjustment yesterday.

The problem is that my treatment is not over, and this is where I get a little leary about the whole matter. The doctor told me I must come in, get this--THREE TIMES A WEEK! for the first couple of months. Not only would this be a financial drain even with just my co-pay if that is all my insurance requires, but where am I going to find an extra 6 hours a week to drive there, wait in the waiting room, wait in the exam room, be adjusted, wait for further instructions, and settle my bill?!? Not to mention the fact that dh is gone so often I would have the kids in tow more often than not. Wouldn't all of this stress add more stress to my already stressed out neck and shoulders?

I'm not sure this is all worth it. Of course, she claims that since the spinal cord is the central message center, chiropractic treatment will take care of a plethora of ailments such as my sinus problems and TMJ. Oh, to never take another Sudafed again or have to wear my Mike Tyson night guard. If these remedies could be absolutely not only promised but guaranteed, I would certainly consider it all worth the time and money.

On top of all of this, Mark has a pinched nerve, so he too has given in and, despite the fact that his skepticism about chiropractic medicine far surpasses mine, he went today. And he does feel better, but I'm sure you can guess how HE feels about going in three times a week (not that he physically can since he's not usually here).

So, with another appointment scheduled for the first of next week, I'm only left to wonder how it is in a world that moves at the speed of light these days, why can't all of my chiropractic problems just be fixed in one visit? Hey, I'd even very willingly do two. But then maybe the chiropractors wouldn't be able to stay in business, and they are after all the ones who are making me feel better!

Enough Visitors. Really.

This little guy whom we found enjoying the pool was admittedly very cute. But my first question was, "Where's his mama?" He arrived after a storm, so I'm not sure if he was blown in or came of his own volition, but there he was very competently swimming in our pool.

I grew up on the Dark Continent, so I've seen my share of snakes and even come face-to-face with a cobra, but I really don't like them in my backyard where my kids play! I guess this drought is driving them to the pool and to the dog's water dish. I was pleased to note this little guy was very bashful. Everytime I tried to photographically capture his lithe little reptilian frame from the front, he would dive way under and take! Mark caught him no problem with the net, though.

I think I found him on the internet under Brown Water Snake, a harmless snake common in this area and often confused with the poisonous Water Mocassin. In my online reading, I came across many authors who implored the readers to stop misunderstanding and mistreating our reptilian friends and killing them needlessly. You know what? They're snakes! I don't want them in my yard. I don't want them around my children. If it weren't for one very infamous snake and one very luscious garden...well, you know the story. And I'll tell pertaining to this cute little guy, I was not very understanding and, upon my request, the Valiant Snakekiller mistreated him to his death.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

A Day in the Life of a Second Birthday

10:35 (the night before the party): Mark and I assemble the dollhouse and set it up in her room.

10:55: Mark and I put up the traditional "Happy Birthday" banner in her room and run streamers this way and that across her room. As we are leaving her room, I whisper, "I hope these don't scare her in the morning."

1:20 AM: I wake from a deep sleep to a timid "Mama? Mama?" coming from the monitor. It stops shortly so I go back to sleep.

1:34 AM: I am awakened again by a "Mama? Mama?" It grows quickly into "Mommy?! MOMMY?!" I run upstairs to gather my little girl in my arms. She points to the door indicating that she'd like to leave NOW. I quickly take the streamers down and soothe her back to sleep.

2:10 AM: Again I hear her say "Mama? Mama?" but it's not so insistent. I wonder if her eyes have just readjusted after being flooded by the hallway light and that now she has discovered the treasure of a new dollhouse. But after just two calls, she's quiet.

8:10 AM: I hear her calling me again in the monitor, only the fright in her voice has been replaced by delight. I go upstairs to find her bouncing up and down in her bed, a huge grin on her face, pointing at the new dollhouse. "Silly girl," I tell her, "you can get out of bed and play with it. You don't have to wait for me!"

9:30 AM: The Princess opts to skip breakfast to play with her dollhouse, and we have to pull her away from her play to attend a brunch for about 50 friends from our old church. On the way to our friend's house, she repeats over and over again, "babies", "mommy", "daddy". I wonder what is going through her mind as she ponders her Fisher Price Loving Family with Twins!

2:00 PM: We are back home so the Princess can resume her play.

4:00 PM: Dana and Papa arrive to share in the celebration of the beginning of a third year of life. After some splashing in the pool and dinner, the Princess is absolutely delighted by her Lilo and Stitch cake. she eagerly attempts to blow out the candles on her "Ditch" cake and is equally pleased that there are more presents to open.

8:00 PM: After cake and more playtime, a tired little Princess goes to bed.

As a side note, sometime down the road, I will embarrass the boys by relating to them the hours they spent intrigued in Dollhouse play with their sister. They have in fact named the twins Grace and Jack and play patiently side-by-side with their little sister. For now, however, I shall simply revel in the fact that my children are playing so gloriously well together!

Friday, August 17, 2007


During the first session of our day at Communicators for Christ today I began to think that perhaps it was too early to bring my well-spoken daughter to a conference on public speaking; the hour-long opening ceremony was a bit much for her and for other young ones in the audience. However, the rest of the day took a positive turn, and by the closing ceremony, Alex was having a good time.

After the opening session, the participants did some activities to improve their expression in speech. Following that they were divided into groups for their poetry presentations. Alex did well and only seemed a little bit nervous. The CFC leader for her group gave her some good tips for improvement. After their presentations, the kids went on to give expository and impromtu speeches as well as present a joke. Of course with this age, "speeches" are very short, but what great practice for a beginning in public speaking!

While Alex was presenting her joke and her impromptu speech to her peers, I was in a workshop with the brain behind CFC. We parents acquired some helpful tips for incorporating public speaking techniques into our daily activities. I look forward to continuing practice with these skills as well as passing them on to the boys too. As far as attending again next year, I'm not sure at this age that Alex enjoyed her day THAT much, but CFC is certainly something we will participate in again at some point in the future.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Happy Birthday, Audrey!

Dear Audrey,

What a delight you are! And how thankful we are for the unexpected blessing God gave us two years ago! You bring joy to our lives from the moment you wake up. I love to hear that sweet little, "Unt Mommy" (I want Mommy) echoing through the monitor as you summon us to your room. Although you're in a big girl bed now and could easily get out yourself, I think you take joy in seeing one of us appear in your doorway, ready to scoop you up in our arms to greet the new day.

From that first greeting in the morning until we snuggle you in bed at night, you are such a pleasure to watch. We marvel at your playtime as you interact with your brothers and sister, whom you simply adore. And you are Little Mommy to so many babies whom you snuggle, feed, and nurture in your own little way. You are certainly a girlie girl and love jewelry and shoes and hate bugs and dirt. On the other hand, you love to be in the middle of all goings-on, and you are often the source of entertainment with your simple way of communicating with few words but many gestures and facial expressions. I love to see you get excited about something because your jaw drops in amazement, your sparkly eyes grow brighter, and your little feet get to running in place. Your enthusiasm for almost all facets of life is enough to put a song in anyone's heart.

This past year, your second year, has probably been the biggest year of physical growth you will ever experience. After all, this year brought you to your feet (although you were already climbing bunk beds well before you could walk), words to your mouth, and more and more personality to your soul. Your dad and I pray that the years ahead will hold much joy, growing wisdom when there is sorrow; fulfillment of dreams, stronger character found in the lost ones; and a heart that grows in the love of Christ and in the knowledge that He loves YOU!

And we love you so much too! Happy Birthday!

Daddy and Mommy

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


New Beginnings: We enjoyed our first service in our new church building! Three years in the making, once the day finally came, it seems things went off without a hitch. A worshipful and high-energy service followed our time with the kids in their classes. Jacob is having a bit of a difficult time adjusting to his new class and the new building. He was promoted to his Kindergarten class the last Sunday at our old building, and his shyness crept back in when he was thrust from the safe walls of his small Pre-K room into a large area with at least quadruple the number of kids. Couple that with the fact that these kids are ages K-5th grade and it's no wonder his confidence left him. So we shall start over! The good thing is that, on the occasions where he wants to join us in service, he is so quiet and still you forget he's there.

In addition to celebrating the great gift God bestowed on our congregation, Mark and I took part in the fellowship of our new Small Group. Sunday evening we shared a potluck dinner and just enjoyed our time getting to know each other a bit. Although these are all people we know from church already, it's a blessing to have the opportunity to dig a little deeper.

Academia: Yesterday the kids had a fun time untwisting their tongues in History with such words as Byzantine, Constantinople, and Hagia Sophia. Today in World Geography, they were tickled to find out we were studying a country called "Turkey." They each had a map to color for their notebooks, and I believe all three of them at some point tasted their paper. And of course the giggles followed each time one of them said, "Mmmm, tastes like turkey!" Tonight we will enjoy a Turkish meal of sorts: rice pilaf, chicken in pita bread, and some sort of breaded zucchini that will be without its intended cucumber sauce as I forgot to get the ingredients.

Tomorrow, Science will bring a quick glimpse into space from a dark closet classroom. We will briefly study the constellations by making a sort of diorama movie shoebox. I have constellation slides that I will poke holes in at the appropriate star spot and then shine with a flashlight. My intention Sunday late night/Monday early morning was to awaken the kids for this brilliant meteor shower that was supposed to occur. I actually did get up at 3:00 to see if it was worth it. Didn't see a single shooting star, so back to bed I went. I make my customary August trip to the window in the middle of the night every year when this is to take place. Maybe I'm not waking up well enough to see them.

Week's End: In two days, I will be a mother with no babies; my little princess will be two! What is happening? These kids are growing up, that's what! When the kids get dressed and I see how short their pants are, I tell them to stop growing, but they are being very disobedient! We will have a little family celebration on Saturday. Audrey loves to watch Lilo and Stitch with the kids, so I ordered a little cake topper. Not as fun as most of my cakes, but I couldn't find a pan that commemorates Lilo and Stitch.

Friday Alex and I will head downtown for Communicators for Christ ( I think she'll have a fun day as she loves to be with people; I'm sure when we leave at the end of the day, she'll have made at least 5 new best friends. She is already so outgoing, so if this seminar can teach her to hone that character trait and focus it on good communciation, it could be beneficial for her. She has prepared a Robert L. Stevenson poem as well as a joke to present. The other three will have a fun day at home with Daddy.

Closing: So I know these were supposed to just be highlights, not a detailed description of every event. Naturally, though, I'm a little wordy. And there have been other fun moments not detailed here: a fun evening out at the pool with friends, fun in the pool with just the family, great learning moments, lots of giggles and hugs and kisses from my babies (and, yes, I'll still call them my babies even though Thursday takes my last baby into Toddlerhood)...

Saturday, August 11, 2007

A Follow-Up on Our Visitor

I've had several people ask me about the venemosity (yes, I know I just made up a word!) of our little visitor last night. I did some research comparing pictures and as far as I can tell, our snake was a Black Rat Snake, common in this area (hopefully not too common). Not poisonous thank goodness! Of course my husband tried to convince me that Black Rat Snakes mate for life and have lots of babies, but since I haven't seen him doing any research, I'm only keeping one eye open for our guest's life partner and all of their offspring.

Friday, August 10, 2007

From Fireworks to Warriors

Phew! A busy and long but very fun day! Yesterday was full of adventure for us all as we began the day by acting out one of the Celtic warrior stories passed down from bard to bard. In addition, we heard an adapted version of Beowulf. My intention was to contrive a little art project after the reading where the kids would draw Grendel from their imagination. However, my plans were thwarted when the kids ambushed me to get a sneak peek at Bauer's rendering of the hideous monster. So out went the imagination! Next time I'll remember to cover up such illustrations!

There was a little art project later on in the day, however. Although I'm not sure she learned the letter A or saw the correlation with apples, Audrey had fun apple stamping with paint. And after the apple stamping she took to her paper canvas like our own little Renoir. Coincidentally, the apple stamping tied in rather well with this week's state study of New York. Alex even did some apple stamping in order to create a visual of the "Big Apple."

The highlight of the day came at the end---waaay at the end---and all I can say is, Thank goodness for a homeschool schedule! Some of the area public schools started yesterday, so we figured there wouldn't be too many families out doing touristy things. We've been wanting to take the kids to the laser show at Stone Mountain but hate crowds, so last night seemed a good pick. We were right about the crowds. We took a relaxed drive through the park and then a solitary stroll right down the walkway of the old Southern townscape they've created. Then it was out to the big, grassy area where we set up camp and then had a game of frisbee. The kids thoroughly enjoyed the frisbee and free range of this gigantic lawn--more so, I think, than the laser show itself, although they did mention they loved all of the fireworks interspersed throughout the show and spotlighted in the patriotic finale.

A Visitor's Demise

We had a visitor tonight...of the reptilian sort. As we were finishing dinner, Mark got up from the table. Glancing out the door, he said, "That's a really big snake." He said it very nonchalantly as if we have snakes of varying sizes stop by on a daily basis. I went over to the door, expecting to see a snake barely bigger than one of those worm-sized snakes you sometimes happen across when gardening. But what I found was this guy:

I have not seen a snake this big on this continent except in zoos, and this guy was NOT in a cage. In fact, he was not only in my backyard, but resting comfortably on the threshhold of my back door, about a foot and a half from where my baby sat eating her dinner! Mark went out the other back door and grabbed the pool broom which he used to trap the snake. I went to get a shovel. After delivering the shovel to him, my valiant husband played with the snake for a few minutes while I ran to get the camera. Unfortunately, the playing lasted a little too long because our legless friend disappeared under the grill and wouldn't come out. I was beginning to have visions of Mark prepping the grill for dinner tomorrow night only to have this little beast strike.

Mark finally coaxed him out and promptly chopped off his head. The kids were then permitted to come out and inspect our visitor from a better vantage point than the family room window.

The boys thought it was very cool that the snake's mouth kept opening and closing even after Daddy had thrown its body over the fence. Alex said she thought she might throw up.

I have to admit that since I am so often home without the Valiant Snake Killer and I have 4 little people to keep safe and sound, I am feeling a little bit like Alex.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Where Are My Boys?

Nothing makes a mother's heart sing more than when she walks into the playroom, heart and mind prepared to face a playdoh explosion disaster that must be cleaned up, only to find her two boys have not only cleaned up the playdoh and put it away, but are now in the midst of neatly folding the art tablecloth! And these are the same two boys who took all of the pool toys out of the pool yesterday without being asked!

Will whoever stole my two boys please return them? Not that I'm not enjoying these two clones immensely!

Lows and Highs

Low: When Alex sat down for school this morning, she had an ATTITUDE!! Last night after checking over some of her work from the day, I talked to her a bit about the sloppiness and carelessness I was seeing. I'm guessing her processing that little talk came out in her attitude. So we had another talk, this time going into one of the big lessons she learned at VBS this summer: putting her best into everything. I asked her, "Are you willing to put your best into everything?" You know what my sweet, precious, COMPLIANT little girl did? She commenced a stare down with me and refused to answer! She didn't even offer an "I don't know" which was her favorite answer for the other questions I asked regarding her being upset. So I left her in her room and told her she was more than welcome to come find me when she had decided one way or the other about putting her best foot forward.

High: It wasn't long before the Alex I know came to find me and give me a big, giant hug. And her decision? To try to put her best into everything. I've been trying harder to look at every situation to determine what God's trying to teach me and what negative role I'm playing in each event since as the old saying goes: It takes two to tango, or in this instance, Two to cultivate a negative attitude. So I'm realizing that I set out this year with so many lofty ambitions that really I probably have set the bar a little too high for my little girl whom I often forget is only in second grade. For now, I want to focus on spending time with her learning rather than teaching AT her. She's so smart it really is fun to learn with her.

Low: These two boys could spend the whole day wrestling, building tents, constructing huge cities out of Legos...I realize those boyish things are the most important things they need to learn at this tender age; however, the one thing I really want them to learn and learn well is reading. It's difficult to motivate them, though...especially my wild man! They both have acquired a good foundation for reading; it's the building on that foundation that becomes difficult. Maybe it's my curriculum, I don't know. I use the A Beka readers, which aren't the most exciting things, but my other options in-house are A Parents' Guide to Teaching Reading (boring!) or Teach Your Child...100 Easy Lessons (even more boring!). So we plod on through A Beka and try to improve fluency while also attempting to make the stories exciting and meaningful.

High: Jacob's story today highlighted the wonderfully adventurous life of Ann Ant (yes, there was a hint of sarcasm in my voice) who crashes a picnic and struggles to steal a bun from the picnickers. Turns out Ann needs 10 of her ant friends to help her (this may be leading to a new line of jokes...How many ants does it take to get a bun up a hill?). In order to make this exciting, I promised Jacob a surprise at the end of the story: a picnic. At first I planned to "picnic" in the backyard, but while he was reading a little voice inside asked me, "Why don't you just do something a little more fun...even if it means a bit more effort?" So at lunchtime, we headed out, grabbed some food, and went to a park on the lake for a picnic. Afterwards, the kids enjoyed the lake. Audrey kept herself occupied throwing rocks in the water while the others went on a "treasure hunt" for rocks and clam shells. Audrey eventually wandered into the water after the others...and with her shoes and socks on. They had a great time and were even more thrilled to see a few boats pass by.

While they were playing, I began a little brainstorm for this reading motivation thing. I think I may tell the boys that occasionally after one of their stories there will be a surprise outing or something of that nature. But they won't know which story it is, so hopefully they'll want to read the story and read it without an attitude in order to earn that potential surprise. We'll see how that goes. And in between, I'll just keep reading to them and piling on the good literature, although there does have to be a bit of an exception for Michael: at the library the other day he was totally disinterested in picking out any books until we happened upon some comic books. Those were his choice. Now I'm the one with the attitude because I have to read those things to him! Guess a little Spider-Man never hurt anyone; in fact, I have a little Spider-Man running around the house as I write this (the boys decided to be Super Heroes when we got back from the lake, so they're dressed up thusly).

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Maintaining Momentum

I'll admit it: I'm a "glass half-empty" kind of gal, so tonight the thought that keeps running through my head is, Man, if only the whole school year could be as good as the last two days. As if I have a crystal ball and have already caught a glimpse of the months to come. Of course, the reality is that I have lived through past years both at the Pierce Academy and in other learning settings, and I know the steam begins to run low, particularly at certain times of the year. Pessimism aside, I guess I will glory in the positive feelings of accomplishment after the first two real days of this school year.

Today after our regular lessons and one-on-one time, we began Art. I am as excited about Art class as the kids are and made myself copies of the pages to be completed. You see, I'm quite challenged in that area and never had Art growing up, so I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to learn. Of course, they say you can't teach an old dog new tricks, but this ol' dog will at least put forth the effort! We are using Barry Stebbing's I Can Do All Things, an introduction to art that includes exercises for pencil drawing, markers, and paints. I was afraid today's introductory lesson would lack the lustre of intrigue, mess, and goo that can attract kids to art, but they were thrilled to learn how to free hand straight lines and then how to draw their own arrows, pencils, and shoelaces. Not to brag or anything, but my arrow, pencil, and shoelaces are pretty stellar pieces of art!

My only frustration with the Pierce World of Academia right now is with Alex...and myself because I thought I had found a solution to what I perceive as a problem, but I don't think my solution is working. I know there are a million moms out there who homeschool 8 or 9 children and seem to do it beautifully. For me, I have a difficult time including in my daily schedule one-on-one time for each of my children (Audrey included as I want her to begin this year too). So I thought the solution would be to meet with Alex on Mondays for a couple of hours to review and teach her new concepts. On this day I would have one-on-one time with her alone and the others would skip that and just participate in the Monday elective. Then the other 4 days I would juggle the younger three kids while Alex just went to her daily folder and got her work along with a checklist that tells her what she is to do. Long story short, I don't know if she is offended by my taking her off the schedule (she insists she's not), or if she really still needs that daily time. Regardless of the reason, she doesn't seem to be doing well with it. So...we're back to juggling a morning time with all of them for Bible, one-on-one time for each of them, and then back together for two electives after lunch.

So you knew I had to throw a little problem in there or the glass would just be full and not half-empty, right? I'm working on my attitude! Seriously, though, nothing to complain about today...our school day ended with one of our lovely tea parties--we had to have a tea party in honor of our friends in the UK, the country we studied today. And our tea party was poolside--beats sitting inside watching it rain on the streets of London, huh? And Alex insisted we speak with a British accent, which was quite adorable (on her anyway).

Monday, August 6, 2007

A Magic Carpet, a Sword Fight, and a Fallen Empire

We had a lot of fun today diving into the Middle Ages through Story of the World. In the text, Bauer suggests to the reader that he imagine himself on a magic carpet flying above the vast region that was the Great Roman Empire. So we fashioned our own magic carpet--a sheet on the futon, and the kids climbed aboard and held on tight. They were able to see the map empire below them as we flew around to the various regions.

During our journey we took a little break for a sword fight when we read about the Roman soldiers and how prepared they were for battle. We also read about how the Celts were beginning to feel a little rebellious up there in Britain.

And finally, we read about the fall of that great empire. After illustrating it with a little game of "steal the markers" from the Roman guard, we got out the Risk game and acted out how the Roman soldiers were trying to protect too much land to guard it effectively. Of course reality set in and we returned to 2007 in the US when we jumped in the car after Story of the World and headed over to the library, but it is always worth noting and remembering on any journey big or small that it was the Romans who gave us the idea of paving our roads!